Jersey Girl review by Mike Long

I've been a fan of Kevin Smith's work since I first saw Clerks back in early '95. However, lately, I've felt that Smith has been getting too big for his britches, and I'm not just talking about his weight problem. It was cute when Clerks was expanded into a comic book and than an animated series, but Smith has attempted to make View Askew into a cottage industry, and with the insipid Jay and Silent Bob Strike Back, I felt that Smith had lost sight of the work that made him famous in the first place. So, it was with great trepidation that I approached Jersey Girl. The whole "Bennifer" debacle aside, the trailer for the film made it look way to saccharine and it just didn't look like my kind of movie. Having now seen the movie, I can say that Jersey Girl isn't the disaster that I thought it'd be, and it certainly isn't like any other Kevin Smith film.

Ben Affleck stars in Jersey Girl as Ollie Trinke, a music industry PR guru, who loves the power and excitement of his job. He meets book editor Gertrude (Jennifer Lopez), and they soon fall in love and get married. Their happy lives are crushed when Gertrude dies in child-birth, leaving Ollie to raise young Gertie on his own. He turns to his crotchety father, Bart (George Carlin) for help. After Ollie loses his job due to a meltdown in front of a crowd of journalists, he is forced to move in with Bart.

The story then jumps ahead seven years. Gertie attends elementary school and Ollie works with his dad as driving the street-sweeper, and they still live with Bart. Ollie and Gertie lead very simple lives, and one of their pleasures is renting movies. While at the video store one day, Ollie meets Maya (Liv Tyler), a woman who is interested in learning more about Ollie for a paper that she's writing. As Maya and Ollie get to know each other, Ollie realizes how much he misses his old life and when an opportunity to go back into music arises, he becomes very excited. But, Ollie must remember that he now has a family and that he must include Gertie in all of his decisions.

OK, here's the low-down for all of you Kevin Smith fans: Jersey Girl may contain some familiar faces from the View Askewniverse, but the majority of this film feels nothing like any of Smith's other films. In one of the extra features, Ben Affleck states that he doesn't understand why people refer to Jersey Girl as a "departure" for Smith. Well, Mr. Affleck, the reason is that this dramedy doesn't contain most of the trademarks found in Smith's other films. This is truly a straight-ahead drama which contains some funny moments. But, most of the film is very bittersweet and Smith doesn't hesitate to pour on the emotion. Jersey Girl has some truly funny lines, but the dialogue doesn't sound like Smith's usual dialogue, and that's not only because the typical scatological comedy isn’t here. If you happened to come across Jersey Girl on TV and had no idea that Kevin Smith directed’d have no idea that Kevin Smith directed it. (And I won’t even talk about the self-control that it must’ve taken Smith to not put himself in the film.)

So it’s not a “Kevin Smith” movie, how is it otherwise? The truth is that Jersey Girl is a slightly better than mediocre film. The story is very predictable and, as we know going in that Gertrude is going to die, there are no surprising twists. (Having said that, there is a cameo towards the end that really, really helps the film.) As noted above, there are some funny moments, but the movie isn’t nearly as funny as Clerks, and the emotional moments don’t ring as true as those in Chasing Amy. There are times when the movie becomes very saccharine, and you’ll probably get very tired of watching Affleck cry. The film’s supporting cast is worth noting, as Carlin delivers some great lines, and the chameleon-like Stephen Root, who plays Carlin’s bone-headed friend, has some good quotes as well. In an ironic twist, this is probably Smith’s most accessible film, and would make a good date movie, yet it’s the move that appears to fall the farthest from where his true talent lies. Once you get past all of the post-Gigli hype, you’ll find that Jersey Girl is a simple, unassuming film.

Jersey Girl emerges onto DVD courtesy of Miramax Home Entertainment. The film has been letterboxed at 2.35:1 and the transfer is enhanced for 16 x 9 TVs. (Although the DVD box incorrectly lists the aspect ratio as 1.85:1.) The image is sharp and clear, showing only a slight amount of grain and no defects from the source print. There are some moments in the film where the character’s fleshtones show some shimmering, and there is some notable artifacting in some scenes. Otherwise, the transfer looks good, as it’s crisp and stable, offering nice colors and accurate framing. The Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track is also nicely done, as it delivers clear dialogue and music. Stereo effects are nicely done and there is a nice amount of surround sound derived from crowd noises and musical cues.

The DVD contains a few extra features, but be warned -- on the commentary track, Smith states that a longer cut of Jersey Girl will be available sometime next year -- so, buyer beware. The DVD contains two audio commentaries. The first features writer/director Kevin Smith and actor Ben Affleck. This is an incredibly fun track...unless of course you want to hear about the movie. This pair discuss tabloids and their relationship in a very laid-back fashion, and they do occasionally talk about the production of Jersey Girl. It’s very clear that these two get along well and the self-depreciating humor is infectious. The second track features Smith, producer Scott Mosier, and Smith regular Jason Mewes, who doesn’t appear in Jersey Girl. This track is entertaining as well, as this trio frankly discusses not only Mewes’ history of drug use, but they also talk about the public’s reaction to the movie. “Behind the Scenes of Jersey Girl“ (16 minutes) is a “making of” featurette which features clips not only from Jersey Girl, but from Smith’s other movies as well. This is a fairly standard featurette, but it also has a very intimate feel due to the honest comments from the cast & crew. Smith and Affleck return for a 27-minute interview in which they discuss their history of working together and their experiences working on Jersey Girl. This is a very funny interview, as they constantly make fun of one another and never stay on-topic. One of the more interesting extras are the “Roadside Attractions with Kevin Smith” shorts which originally aired on The Tonight Show. In these segments, Smith visits Upstate, New York, Orlando, Florida, Tampa, Florida, Seattle, Washington, and the set of Jersey Girl. There are some truly funny moments here, and Smith’s quick wit only serves to remind us of what’s missing from Jersey Girl. The extras are rounded out by a series of text interviews with the cast and crew. While these extras are interesting and entertaining, they are ultimately disappointing, because even a cursory viewing of the film shows that there are a lot of deleted scenes are there, which will probably be on the future DVD release.

5 out of 10 Jackasses

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